When you visit Kakadu NP in the Northern Territory, there is a lot of choice and many kilometres. We were staying in Darwin, so decided to visit one of the ‘outer’ locations, known for its birdlife.
This year-round wetland is an hour’s drive from Darwin, on sealed roads. There are a couple of parking areas and maps from there to help you decide which walk(s) you’ll take. We started with the Woodlands to Waterlilies Walk, as it was the shortest and we’d thought to measure our pace against the recommended time.
The path begins as a firm dirt track through paperbark trees,
and finally on to the boardwalk and out to the 3 viewing platforms. From these you cast your eyes over lilies, through fine, closely woven brush, or up in the air as flocks fly past.
We met a couple of avid birdwatchers, one of whom let me use their binoculars to look at an azure kingfisher, and then pointed out the other ‘good’ finds. We also saw some intriguing insects.
We’d set out pretty early in the morning and was only about 32C but we mistakenly thought that the woodland walk would be covered and cool and hadn’t applied sunscreen. On the open boardwalk we were feeling it and almost as soon as we entered the woodland we were beset by mosquitoes, so be warned.
Making good time, we set off on the Monsoon Forest Walk, which was surprisingly very different. The tropical north has 15 000 small patches of monsoon forest and some of the plants grown there are rare. This is a saltwater crocodile area, so warnings about staying on the path are frequent.
Another firm, but undulating path, decorated by butterflies
and more golden orb spiders. They like making their webs across the path.
The boardwalk begins quite early and the thin, green palms reach straight up beside, above and ahead of you.
Shorter, stunted palms are close to the muddy swamp surface and roots and bark twist in their competition for light. The forest is alive with sounds and smells.
The wetlands increase and I peer through the trees to grasslands further afield, seeing all manner of beak, head, body shape and behaviour. It is a wonderland that at one moment bids me stop and the next urges me on.
Magical reflections are formed in the swamp.
Corellas, black-necked storks, ducks, swans, egrets, cormorants and masked lapwings, along with a whole lot more that were too far or too fast for me to identify. Just stunning and peaceful all in one.
Take a hat, water, camera, binoculars, sunscreen and insect repellant (might as well take a packed lunch). And it’s free!